Lanao Norte town mayor ousted over citizenship steps down
KAUSWAGAN, Lanao del Norte – Mayor Rommel Arnado has stepped down as the town’s chief executive following Wednesday’s serving of a writ of execution in connection with a Supreme Court decision, which unseated him with finality for his continued use of a US passport.
Arnado first ran and won as mayor in 2010 and had since been undefeated. He had wanted to run for a final term in May until the high court’s final decision was issued in December.
When he first ran as mayor, Arnado said he had denounced his US citizenship but his opponents belied it. In filing a petition against Arnado, his political opponents were able to secure certifications that showed the mayor continued to use his US passport even after he was elected mayor.
Despite the earlier adverse decision on his case, Arnado initially refused to step down and filed motions to contest the ruling.
Earlier this month, a writ of execution was finally issued and was served on Wednesday by Arnel Gabe, the director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Lawyer Dean Quijano, a legal counsel of Arnado’s, told reporters that the mayor has accepted his fate.
“Mayor Arnado has stepped down because it (writ of execution) was only the document we had been waiting for,” Quijano said.
Based on the Supreme Court final ruling, Arnado’s political rival in the 2013 elections, Florante Capitan, will now sit as the town’s local chief executive.
On Wednesday, dozens of Arnado’s supporters gathered in front of the town hall to prevent Capitan from taking over.
Capitan, who viewed Arnado’s defeat in the Supreme Court as a long overdue victory, said he had already talked with some officials and that Arnado relayed he needed at least two days to talk to his supporters and make them understand the latest development.
“We will assess and discuss this with our lawyers – if we will grant the request,” Capitan said.
He said if needed, his camp would ask the police to disperse the Arnado supporters encamped outside the town hall.
Meanwhile, Quijano said Arnado was still a candidate in this year’s mayoral elections because the Supreme Court ruling only pertained to his 2013 run.
He admitted that the adverse ruling might have been arrived at because Arnado failed to attach the affidavit of renunciation of his US citizenship when he filed his certificate of candidacy in 2013.
But former Lanao del Norte board member Casan Maquiling, whom Arnado had trashed in the 2010 mayoral elections, said they also filed a disqualification case against Arnado at the Commission on Elections.
Maquiling said the same ground used for their petition at the Supreme Court was cited in the disqualification case.
“We will not give Arnado another chance to rule,” he said, adding that it would be a mockery of laws if a US citizen was allowed to govern the town. SFM
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